Lately I’ve been asked a lot about Judaism and Christianity – specifically, is it possible to be both Jewish and Christian?
And I know there are people who assert that they are, indeed, both, or who say they are raising children as both.
Here’s my difficulty with that: For a Christian, Jesus of Nazareth is God, and he’s alive. For a Jew, he is not God, and he’s dead.
It’s called “Christian” because in that way of understanding the world, Jesus is (present tense) the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the ultimate revelation of God, and he is, in fact, God.
In the Jewish way of understanding the world, Jesus was a rabbi who was executed by the Romans. There is only One God, and that God is completely, utterly Other: not human, never has been human. There are some Jews who do not believe in any kind of personal God; they identify as Humanistic Jews or secular Jews.
When you have people in a family with different beliefs, it can be complicated. I have relatives, whom I love, for whom Jesus is the Christ. I have relatives who think belief in God is basically fairytales. We love one another, and we deal with one another kindly and with respect. My son does not say to me, “Mom, you sell fairytales for a living” even though I am aware that from his point of view, that’s what I do. My Christian relatives do not say to me, “You are going to Hell,” even though I suspect some of them fear that’s where I’m headed. And I do not preach at them, either. We coexist with love and occasional amusement. I like to think that God finds us amusing, too.
If you are considering raising a child as both Jewish and Christian, I would like you to think about a question you may very well get from a child: Is Jesus alive, or dead? God or not?
This isn’t about Christmas trees. It isn’t about bacon or bagels. There are many varieties of Christian, and many varieties of Jews, but when we say “there’s no real difference” that’s simply not true.
Image: All rights reserved by AAAPOE and 1China1 Photos at flickr